Who doesn't enjoy a good cup of tea? Tea is an aromatic infusion of dried camellia sinensis leaves in hot water. Tea is served hot or cold with or without sugar add-ins and cream. There are five types of tea, white, black, green, oolong and Pu-erh. Every year I make the switch from coffee to tea in October for an autumn feel. My current favorite type of tea is black tea with honey. Cultures across the world have a shared love for tea and this is seen in the many names of tea flavors. My favorite tea flavor is English Breakfast black tea. What is your favorite tea? Do you have an advanced tea palette or do you prefer the classic Lipton? In this blog I will discuss how tea came to the United States, how tea is grown and the most popular tea of today.
The History of Tea
Chinese culture has many legends on how the tea-leaf was discovered as edible. Proven through archaeological analysis, tea has been used in China for over five thousand years. The method of boiling tea leaves and consuming the water was passed to India, Russia and Turkey through the silk road. Once tea made its way to Japan, tea making made its way into an art form. The Japanese tea ceremony, temae is a tea making art form. Inspired by Zen Buddhism, matcha tea is prepared and presented by tea artists.
Tea found its way to Great Britain through trading with India. Called Chai Catai, tea was first heard of in Great Britain in the mid 16th century. By 1680 tea became a favorite of the royal aristocracy. Thanks to Catherine of Braganza, Queen consort of England from 1665 to 1682 tea became popular in the royal court. With tea popular among royals it became an item of status in Great Britain culture.
America inherited many traits of Great Britain culture, including the love of tea. The variation of ice tea was created by Americans in the 1860s. The first ice tea recipe was published in the Buckeye Cookbook in 1876. American tea importer, Thomas Sullivan created the tea bag in 1908 by sending tea samples in silk packets. In 1964 the American company, Nestle created the first instant tea, Nestea. Sweet tea, the process of adding corn syrup sweeteners to hot tea was also created in America.
How is Tea Grown?
Modern day tea is primarily grown on commercial farms in China, India, and Kenya. Leaves used in tea beverages are from the plant, Camellia Sinensis. This plant is used to make all forms of tea, black, green, white, etc. Camellia Sinensis grows best in warm, humid and rainy climate.
If left unkempt, Camellia Sinensis can grow into large bushes in acidic soil. Camellia Sinensis is cut to manageable size, as it grows small leaves form. The new leaves are harvested from the bush to create tea. Depending on the oxidation levels of the leaves as they are dried and ground, they will produce green or black tea.
The Tea of Today
Since the arrival of tea in 1650 it has become a popular drink with Americans. One of the most popular forms of tea today is Boba. Boba tea is known by many names, pearl tea, milk tea and bubble tea. You may have noticed that there are several Boba tea cafes in San Jose. This makes it one of the most popular drinks in the Bay. Fun fact, this post is inspired by the SJPL Vineland branch's routine of ordering Boba every Thursday.
Boba tea was created in Taiwan in the 1980s. Boba tea has a variety of ingredients in it that depend on what you order. The main ingredients in Boba tea are, brewed tea, tapioca, sugar, milk, creamer and custom flavorings. Boba tea is served hot or cold, but the most common type is ice tea with tapioca pearls.
Boba tea can be made with black or green tea. Sugar can be customized to the drinker's taste with artificial sweeteners, flavored syrups and sugar. Milk and cream are popular in boba tea to make Boba Milk Tea. There are many variations of boba that tea lovers can try. Find your local Boba tea cafe to try as many as you can!
Happy Boba tea Thursday to the Vineland branch!